The security forces on Tuesday foiled the Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT) bid to replenish and augment its depleting ranks in the valley, by gunning down at least four militants in north Kashmir's Sopore area.
Security forces cordoned off Sopore's Sadapora village, 55 km north of Srinagar, around 2 am despite cold weather --- the temperature continue to hover around zero degree Celsius in the valley.
The operation was launched after the security forces received information about the presence of militants in a house.
"Security forces came under militant fire around 3:30 am. In the initial exchange of fire, one militant was killed," Sopore superintendent of police Imtiyaz Hussain, who was part of the operation, told Hindustan Times.
The hiding militants positioned themselves in compound of two houses. After 12 hours of exchange of fire and huge blasts, the security forces claimed to have killed four militants by 3:30 pm. Two houses and a cow shed, which belong to two brothers, were completely damaged in the gun-battle.
Hussain said, "One was a local militant and three others were foreigners. All killed militants belong to the LeT."
Preliminary reports suggest that slain local militant could be Atir Ahmad of Sopore, a high school student known for Islamic bent of mind. He joined the LeT earlier this year. The police have not yet confirmed the identity.
The police officer said the militant group had recently crossed from frontier district of Kupwara, close to the Line of Control.
"This group was meant to replenish and augment militant ranks for the LeT in and around Sopore," said Hussain.
On December 13, three militants of the LeT with similar goals were neutralised in Sopore in two separate encounters. Tuesday's bid was second such attempt in the past one week.
"There are attempts from across the border to revive militancy. Today's killings have dented LeT's attack capabilities. We suspect there are two or more militants still trapped. The encounter is on," said Hussain.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the number of militants killed in gun-battle is five.
In Srinagar, inspector general of police Shiv Murari Sahai described the killing as "major success against militancy in north Kashmir".
According to the CRPF figures, militant strength is around 100 in the entire valley, down from around 25,000 in 1990 when militancy started.
Sources said Pakistan-occupied Kashmir based LeT is joining its hands with other militant groups like Jash-e-Muhammad for coordinated attacks inside the valley.
Sources said despite ideological differences between the two radical groups, depleting number and waning institutional support across the border has many militant groups pooling resources and men.
Lashkar attempted a major militant spectacle by attacking a hotel on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway on October 19 this year, first major attack since 2010 Lal Chowk attack. The militants, however, fled after making an abortive bid to storm the hotel. Two civilians were killed in the attack.